Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma on Friday described the late Ontlametse Phalatse as a dynamic young lady, with whom he connected immediately.
Speaking at the funeral service of the late Phalatse in Hebron, President Zuma paid tribute to the 18-year-old, who lived with progeria. She passed away last Tuesday at George Mukhari Hospital in Garankuwa.
Recalling her courtesy call with him on the eve of her 18th birthday last month, which was part of her wish list, President Zuma said Phalatse walked tall despite her progeria. Progeria is an extremely rare genetic disorder in which symptoms resembling aspects of aging are manifested at a very early age.
I looked forward to seeing her. I had my own [mental] picture of her, [however] that changed when she came [to visit me]. She walked proudly and she shook my hand. She sat proudly on her chair she was a dynamic lady, said President Zuma.
The President told those who had gathered in a large marquee, including school children who came dressed in their uniforms, that Phalatse spoke non-stop.
You wouldn't ask her a question because she answers your question before you even ask the question. She was talking one way, she was very bright, he said of her meeting with him.
At the meeting last month, a member of Phalatse's trust informed President Zuma of how they got to work with her. Phalatse had expressed her wish for a car and a home for her and her mother. The President said Phalatse had spoken about the challenges of having to use public transport when going to her doctor's appointments in Johannesburg.
She had wished for a house and car. I indicated to her that I have a trust and a foundation, said President Zuma, adding that he was happy to have fulfilled her wishes in order to ease her life.
President Zuma said that when he invited her at the time to celebrate his upcoming 75th birthday on 12 April, he had planned to surprise her with the car she needed.
I wanted to give her the car on my birthday, little did I know that God had taken a decision. Death is a secret only known by God. I was shocked [to hear of her passing]. She was healthy, he said as he looked at her mahogany casket that was adorned with wreaths.
Gospel star Rebecca Malope said in the 18 years of her life, Phalatse had made the country proud.
She was so beautiful, Malope said before dedicating an emotional song to her.
Phalatse was one of two South African girls with progeria. Despite the physical toll on her body, she remained a positive inspiration throughout her life.
A memorial service for Phalatse was held on Wednesday at Hebron College, Manotsi High School.
Among those who came to pay their last respects to Phalatse on Friday were Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu and North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo.
Source: South African Government News Agency